Vegan on a budget
It's a common misconception that eating vegan is expensive. I completely understand where this idea comes from - first of all, because fast food and convenience foods are ridiculously cheap, and secondly, trendy snacks and superfoods (such as raw food bars and anything from the 'health food aisle' in the supermarket) are usually ridiculously expensive. But it doesn't have to be that way at all! In fact, eating a vegan diet based on whole plant foods is not only affordable, but probably THE cheapest way to eat in almost every country of the world. All while still being nutritious, satisfying and delicious!
I thought I'd share with you a few of my tips for eating a healthy vegan diet on a budget!
1. Base your meals around starches - no matter where you go in the world, the cheapest staple foods are almost always starches such as rice, potatoes, beans, oats etc. These foods are not only wholesome and nutritious, but also incredibly versatile. Just base your meals around one of these starches and let your imagination go wild! Make oatmeal or muesli to pair with fresh or frozen fruit for breakfast, and lunch or dinner could be rice or potatoes together with a stir fry, Dahl, vegetable curry or chilli, using fresh or frozen veggies, beans and lentils. The options are endless. Just add some herbs, spices or condiments and you've got yourself a delicious, satisfying, healthy and cheap meal every time!
2. Buy seasonally and locally - buying fruits and vegetables that are in-season is so much cheaper, usually because of less transportation costs! So vary your meals according to what time of the year it is, for example, don't buy fruits like mangoes and stone fruit in the middle of Winter but instead choose oranges, mandarins, apples and persimmons. Buying foods that are grown locally will not only save you money but it's also kinder to the environment and usually more nutritious as they can be picked closer to the ideal stage (and therefore also taste better too!).
3. Shop around and look for specials - when you're trying to save money, shopping around for the best prices can make a big difference. Places like farmer's markets and asian grocers are usually cheaper than the big chain supermarkets, and often have a huge variety of different fruits and vegetables, so well worth the trip! Stick to buying the foods that are on special each week, and stock up on your staple foods whenever they are special too, often they are reduced by over half price so keep an eye out. Also looking or asking for 'imperfect' or overripe fruit and veg at a discounted price can lead to some amazing bargains!
4. Buy in bulk - buying foods in bulk makes SUCH a huge difference in price! Smaller, individually packaged foods are always much more expensive than buying a large amount at the same time. Examples include big bags of rice or potatoes, which if you compare the price per kilo, will always be much cheaper in bulk. Bulk food stores and farmer's markets are often the best places to get great deals on bulk produce and staple foods. If you think you won't use all the fruit or vegetables in time when buying a whole box at once, see if you can split a box with a friend, freeze some or cook up big batches of vegetable stews, curries, soup, banana bread etc to keep in the fridge or freezer. You'll thank yourself later!
5. Make it yourself - instead of buying something at the supermarket, make it yourself! Not only is it a whole lot cheaper but you can have fun with experimenting and create your own delicious versions to suit your tastes! Granola bars, bliss balls, mueslis, hummus etc are all examples of food that are usually quite expensive to buy, but super cheap (and easy) to make yourself at home. Head to the internet for some recipe inspiration if your stuck and get cooking! You'll find you can make whole batches of things like bliss balls for less than the price of what a single one would have cost if you'd bought it!
6. Bring your own - if you go to school, work or uni and have to buy lunch, snacks or coffee everyday, it can really add up. A simple solution is to bring your own! If you don't have much time in the morning, you can set aside one day of the week to prep all your meals so they are all ready to go, prepare your food the night before or just cook extras at dinner and take the leftovers with you the next day. Even just bringing your own coffee to work in a thermos cup can save you $4-5 a day! I always like to make sure I have a water bottle and some snacks with me wherever I go so I don't have to resort to buying expensive snacks or plastic water bottles when I'm out!
Having said all that, I do think it's very important to keep in mind that your body is your temple and the one thing that will stay with you and carry you throughout your whole life. The food you eat is what fuels and nourishes your body and mind, therefore when you are spending money on food you are essentially investing in your health. Even if choosing healthier, wholesome foods may be more expensive at times, I definitely think that's money well spent!